During the final days of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final text for its changes to the Common Rule, the regulations that govern research with human subjects, completing a revision process started in 2011. The Common Rule, which was last updated in 1991, affects research supported by 16 federal departments and agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Defense, Education, Commerce, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the National Science Foundation.
Overall, the changes look to be a positive development for the social and behavioral science research community. According to the executive summary, “The final rule is designed to more thoroughly address the broader types of research conducted or otherwise supported by all of the Common Rule departments and agencies such as behavioral and social science research.” The rule maintains several proposals from the earlier Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that aimed to reduce the oversight burden on researchers conducting studies that pose no or minimal risk to participants (like a lot of social and behavioral science research). It also declines to adopt several provisions that were controversial in the biomedical research community (although supported by some in the social sciences), including consent requirements surrounding work with de-identified biospecimens, which is likely to lead to a less contentious reception overall.
Read on for COSSA’s full analysis of the changes.
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COSSA has released a new publication in its HOT TOPICS series, Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Federally-Funded Researchers. HOT TOPICS are periodic, featured articles prepared by COSSA staff members offering insights into timely issues important to the social and behavioral science community. This edition was written by Camille Hosman, who joined the COSSA team earlier this year.
The report provides an overview of some of the major efforts made in recent years to better understand issues of regulatory burden and to begin to develop roadmaps for addressing it. While there is no shortage of ideas, given the complexity of the topic and the many players– federal agencies, Congress, research institutions, and researchers themselves– the path to relief is less clear.Read on for the full report.
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By Julia Milton, COSSA
The scientific community has been grappling with topics related to science communication and public trust in science lately. This spring, several major scientific organizations met to focus on these issues. To name a few, the National Academy of Science’s 2015 Henry and Bryna David Lecture was held on “Communicating the Value and Values of Science;” the AAAS’ annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy held not one, but two break-out sessions on “Public Opinion and Policy Making,” as well as an evening plenary lecture entitled “Science to Action: Thoughts on Convincing a Skeptical Public;” and the Academies’ Roundtable on Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences held a workshop, “Does the Public Trust Science? Trust and Confidence at the Intersections of the Life Sciences and Society.”
According to Pew Research Associate Director Cary Funk, the public generally has confidence in both the institution of science and scientists as a profession. However, when it comes to specific science-related issues like evolution, attitudes become more varied and may be correlated with factors like political ideology, education, and religiosity, depending on the topic. There is certainly a sense that “science” has been on the defensive lately as public policy debates on climate change, childhood vaccinations, and genetically modified foods generate controversy and incidents like the high-profile retraction of a study on attitudes toward same-sex marriage grab headlines. (more…)